Channel 4 set to be saved from privatisation

Channel 4 could be set to avoid privatisation under a review of the policy carried out by the new Culture Secretary.

The policy to sell the broadcaster was spearheaded by Nadine Dorries, the previous culture secretary under Boris Johnson, but it is understood that the review has found that the business case is not strong.

Though a final decision is yet to be made on Channel 4’s future, sources have suggested that the sale will likely be dropped in the review carried out by Michelle Donelan.

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“It’s likely that the Government will want to quietly drop privatisation”, one senior Tory told the Financial Times.

The then-culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, spearheaded attempts to privatise Channel 4 this yearThe then-culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, spearheaded attempts to privatise Channel 4 this year
The then-culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, spearheaded attempts to privatise Channel 4 this year

“It’s unpopular with some parts of the party, has a huge impact on our creative sector and the Media Bill can be pushed through without including it”.

Rishi Sunak previously backed the sale during the summer’s Tory leadership campaign, and argued that the broadcaster would be helped by privatisation so it can compete with international streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

This week Downing Street confirmed that the Prime Minister will now be reviewing all of his campaign pledges which he made while running for the leadership, while both he and his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, focused on fixing the economy.

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It came after several of Mr Sunak’s policy positions were questioned following clashes with commitments with the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto, which the Prime Minister has committed to delivering on.

“We are looking at all the campaign pledges and we are looking at whether it is the right time to take them forward,” his press secretary said on Wednesday.

Jeremy Hunt, before becoming Chancellor, said earlier this year that the broadcaster provides competition to the BBC to drive up the quality of programming.

“As it stands, Channel 4 provides competition to the BBC on what is called public service broadcasting,” said Mr Hunt, who is also a former culture secretary.

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“It works on the kinds of programmes that would not be commercially viable and I think it would be a shame to lose that.”

Andrew Mitchell, the development minister, has said that the Channel 4 investigation into the “plebgate” incident saved him while he was struggling with mental health.

“Channel 4 saved my life, probably literally,” he said.

He was forced to resign in 2012 after he was accused of calling police officers “plebs” outside Downing Street. A Channel 4 investigation later found that evidence given by a member of the public had actually been provided by an off-duty police officer who was not at the scene.

A DCMS spokesperson said: "The Culture Secretary has been clear that we are looking again at the business case for the sale of Channel Four. We will announce more on our plans in due course."